May 17

What Can Change the World Today?

by Sargent Shriver Peace Institute | 05/17/2021 2:42PM | Quote of the Week | Peacebuilding | Justice | Human Rights


Our Quote of the Week makes a simple but profound declaration that the main weapons wielded by the powerful  -- money and violence -- will ultimately not effect meaningful, social change. It is only by implementing bold, human-centered ideas that we can truly make a difference for the planet.

Sargent Shriver spoke these words at the 1964 American Red Cross Annual Convention, during a particularly eventful moment in his life. He was the first Director of a thriving Peace Corps and he had recently been enlisted by President Johnson to lead the War on Poverty. Engaged in growing the former and in creating the programs of the latter, he delivered a compelling address to the members of this humanitarian organization.

The "idea" to which Sargent Shriver refers in the quote is the one he describes as being behind Peace Corps:

"... that free and committed men and women can cross boundaries of culture and language, of alien traditions and great disparities of wealth, of old hostilities and new nationalisms, to meet with other men and women on the common ground of service to human dignity."

Infused into this idea are the values that propelled Sargent Shriver forward throughout his life: that we are all capable of working together and serving others; that all human beings deserve justice; and that we all have a role to play in building peace and in ensuring human rights for all.

This week's quote rings true particularly as we consider the current conflict between Israelis and Palestinians over Gaza, which is currently taking an unbearable human toll. The situation in the region is complex, but one thing is certain: escalation of the conflict, and the refusal to provide a stable, peaceful, home for the Palestinian minority in the region, is resulting in large-scale destruction and an ever-growing humanitarian crisis. From a political and from a human standpoint, it behooves the more powerful players in this conflict, from Israel to the United States, to dedicate ourselves to the idea that we can, in Sargent Shriver's words, meet "on the common ground of service to human dignity."

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